Serving as a caregiver for an elderly parent or family member can be incredibly challenging. The time commitment required, as well as the emotional responsibility and specific medical care your loved one may need, is overwhelming. It is important to be realistic in knowing how much care you can offer to your parent, including recognizing when you are no longer able to serve as their primary caregiver. There isn’t one right answer to the question “What should I do if I can no longer care for my elderly parent?”, as your lifestyle, your relationship with your family, and their needs are unique to your situation. However, you do have several options when it comes to caring for your parent. Learning about the services and resources available to you as a caregiver and to your elderly parent can help demystify the process so you fully understand your options and so you meet your legal responsibility. While it is never an easy decision to transition the type of care your aging parent receives, recognizing the best solution to the situation is important for you and the people you care for.
Assess Your Loved One’s Needs
Your aging parent has a unique set of needs; your role as a caregiver may encompass a range of support and experiences. The best way to approach the decision is to understand your elderly parent’s needs. While you likely already know that something needs to change, there are many reasons adult children seek support caring for their loved ones. There are several questions that can guide your ultimate choice, and knowing the things to look for will benefit you in your conversations and actions going forward.
What do you currently find yourself doing to support your aging parent? Think about your responsibilities on an average day or week, and make a list of the responsibilities and tasks you do throughout the day as a caregiver. This list can help you recognize what areas your loved one would benefit the most from support and what areas you find the most challenging. This can be helpful to inform future caregivers for your parent, and your parent’s needs are a critical factor in selecting the right kind of care for them. It can also be helpful to you, as you can process the areas in which you may need support for yourself.
Does your elderly parent have a disability or long-term medical condition that a family caregiver is not equipped to treat? Your loved one’s needs are unique, and if your loved one is affected by a medical condition that requires specific care, you may not be able to care for them alone. Family members can provide love and support in many ways for an aging relative, but cannot replace the skill and resources of medical professionals. Talk with your parent’s doctor about their specific diagnosis and ask what services they recommend for your situation.
Is there anyone else available to help you care for your parent? While you are never alone and several support groups exist specifically for caregivers, bearing the sole responsibility of caregiving for your family member is very challenging. If you are overwhelmed, consider talking to any siblings or other close relatives to see if they can assist you in caring for your parent. Caregiving can often come unexpectedly to the adult children responsible for their aging parent, so recognize that you have support systems in friends and family.
Consider Hiring A Home Care Service in Your Area
If you are unsure if your mom or dad needs to relocate to a residential care facility, but you are unable to meet their care needs, consider a home care service. Home care professionals can help take care of your parent while allowing them to age-in-place, restoring your peace of mind. These services offer a professional caregiver who will come to your parent to help with their personal care or medical care needs. Home care can offer a range of support services, from meal preparation to help your loved one maintain their daily hygiene. Typically, these services are flexible and willing to meet the needs of your parent, helping you feel secure that your loved one is getting the care that they need. Home health aides may also be offered by these services; as specialists, they are equipped to meet a specific set of medical needs which can benefit individuals living with long-term conditions. In these cases, your loved one remains in their own home or the place that they are currently living, allowing them to stay in a familiar environment near loved ones.
If your primary concern is leaving your parent alone during the day, you may also consider an adult daycare program in your area. Adult day care typically allows seniors to connect to a community of other elderly adults and offers them socialization rather than leaving them on their own. Some programs offer medical care or supervision to patients, which can be helpful if you are concerned about your parent’s health and well-being while you are unavailable.
Look Into Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities
If your parent needs more support than can be offered by family members or home care, it may be time to consider a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or assisted living facility. Nursing homes offer constant supervision for your loved ones and can provide them with the support they need to maintain the activities of daily life. Nursing homes can offer socialization for seniors as well, often offering group activities and events. Research nursing homes carefully to see what services they offer, whether they admit Medicare/Medicaid-enrolled seniors, and how often they offer support to residents. In the case that your loved one needs more constant support than a nursing home may provide, consider an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, These facilities typically employ more medical professionals to help support their residents, with some offering specific programs for things like memory loss or physical therapy. Veterans also may be eligible for nursing homes specifically for them, so be sure to research and consider all options available to you and your family.
When looking for a facility, make sure to do research on the range of facilities available nearby. Check the results of past inspections at the facility you are interested in to see if any residents have reported complaints or if they have not met any required standards. Check-in with the facility about their availability. If they have open beds, ask what kind of unit your loved one is being offered. Some care facilities also have a limited number of bed spaces for Medicare/Medicaid recipients, so if your loved one is eligible, ask the facility how their enrollment may impact their access to care. If possible, visit the facility in person for a tour. In addition to visiting open units, notice how the facility’s staff interacts with patients and the design/accessibility of the facility.
If you have selected a nursing home or long-term care facility, be sure to ask the facility’s staff about the cost of care and whether there are costs for additional services at the facility. Make sure to plan for potential changes in the cost of long-term care that could occur in the future. Planning for these costs can help ease stress further along in your parent’s care.
Check-In with Yourself and Seek Support
Accepting that you are not the best person to care for your loved one can be both a relief and a stressor. On one hand, you can be relieved that you are no longer the only caregiver responsible and that your loved one is getting the care that they need. However, it can also be difficult to accept that you can’t care for a loved one on your own, especially if you serve as a caregiver to others in your life. Make sure to acknowledge that you are doing what is best for you and your loved one by seeking outside help. While it may be difficult or impossible to have a discussion with your parent about seeking outside support, acknowledging the areas of need they have that you are unable to meet can help you both feel more secure.
If you find yourself still struggling with the idea of outside support for your loved one, be sure to talk to trusted family and friends who can support and reassure you in this difficult time.
Recognize the importance of your own social life, job or career responsibilities, or other obligations you need to meet. While you may be a caregiver, you are also an individual. If you feel like you need emotional or other support regarding the transition from serving as a caregiver to employing outside support, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist or counselor who can help you process the difficult situation you are in. You are willing to help provide your loved ones with the best care possible for them and owe you owe yourself the same.